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Now, I adore pigs, saw "Babe" 11 times, don’t eat ‘em, and pet them at the kiddie zoos.  Yet I would never encourage lipstick for an oinker.  So why do developers of digital products that won’t sell, chirp: “Let’s spin the click potential, sell advertising on it, and give it away?”

Why is advertising the solution to products that won’t sell?  Do the trumpeters that suggest this salvation path understand the dynamics of advertising – really get it?  Perhaps, just perhaps, these are lousy products that need to be put out of their misery – or the misery of the marketing and sales team.  Marketing cringes at having to pitch a pig in a beauty contest.
 
Brand marketers and ad buyers know every shade of lipstick used on the grin of a porker, so why are they hearing themselves chatter, “Well, that is a lovely shade of Fuchsia #129; it makes his smile brighter.”
 
What are those digital products that are painted pigs and what are those DPs that are attractive, will sell, and are leveraging incremental ad revenue on top of subscriptions and stand alone sales to maximize profit?  Here are a few that caught my eye during last few years:
 
Twitter – it’s free, it’s attractive.  However, can advertising on Twitter really influence the user?  There are some smart companies like 12seconds.tv that get that brand or call2act advertising is challenged by the learned behavior of Tweeters living in gists of ideas of concepts created in 140 characters.  In this case, both Twitter and 12seconds.tv use heavy gloss to stave off the need of a full swipe of paint.  So here’s to hoping Twitter takes a pass on ad support.
 
Fandango – it has an ad supported business in the works.  If it is an online concept, it is a beauty contest winner.  If you can view the site on a mobile browser and click the ads into movie poster screen savers, then there is the possibility some revenue will be made by the tween and teen consumer leveraging their limited allowances.  If it’s a free application that will be totally supported by ads, can the banner advertising generate enough revenue to Fandango to re-invest in a forever polished and perfected app so that it is a deserving channel for brand advertising?  They may need swipes of lip plumper.
 
Boomerang by adNav – painted pig; there is a ton of color trying to hide this GPS product.  And, the ad supported model is dangerous.  This device encourages drivers to take their eyes off the road to review digital advertising discounts for hotels, dining, and weather on a portable GPS navigation device attached to windshields or the dash.  There is a reason digital outdoor board advertising on freeways is banned in many metro areas.  Perhaps, if the adverting review on the device only worked when the car was stopped, then this might be a safe product.
 
Funambol for Nokia S60 – its mobile applications are attractive and are sort of free.  It has an equally attractive ad supported model that is non-intrusive, relevant, and respects user privacy.  No lipstick needed.   Maybe just a schmear of pink gloss over the fact that WAP ads - as they are created today - on phones are rarely remembered.  Is that the product makers or the advertiser's challenge?
 
NHL/National Hockey League mobile site – its mobile website is a squished version of its on-line property that didn’t cost that much to squish or to run.  So why did the NHL paint and parade this less-than-engaging product to ad buyers and why was ad space bought? 
 
Foneshow mobile talk and sports radio – painted pig.  I only need to say this one comment and you will get it:  “Listening to the advertising is killing battery life.” 
 
Cellufun mobile game community – it’s a cool idea with cool advertising strategists at work.  Again, WAP ads aren’t doing it for most of us, but Cellufun does raise the heat on brand marketing for the casual game player – 35 year old female.  The Thanksgiving Butterball game was hilarious and nearly 325,000 virtual Butterball Turkeys were purchased for use in the game.  The Butterball logo was seen 3.7M times.  No painted hams for these turkey players.
 
When it comes to evaluating a free product to support with advertising, consider running a litmus test – what would you pay to use this product without advertising?  If you answer is “Nothing” then file all the trend reports that promote the product as the next best thing since the word “Cool” was created.
 
Maybe you've seen a few painted pigs.  If so, we’d love to hear about them.

Tina Whitfield

Published 13 May, 2009 by Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield is CEO of EquisGlobal and a contributor to Econsultancy.

12 more posts from this author

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Vancouver Web Design

I don't think advertising is a long term solution for products that won't sell , If the products are not good , nobody would buy them

about 7 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Remember a company called the "Sharper Image".  It took Consumer Reports testing to drive them out of business.  They advertised a product that cleaned the air - an air purifyer.  Million upon millions of dollars in sales later - achieved through advertising - the product still didn't clean anything.  After Consumer Reports published their findings, people realized they had been taken to the cleaners and lawsuits ensued.  It was the death blow to the company.  Had Sharper Image just taken the product off the shelves as soon as they knew it wasn't working, they'd still be around today.

about 7 years ago

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Erik Schwartz

Erik from Foneshow here,

Actually we have two principal use cases, in neither of which is battery particularly relevant.

Our primamry use case is short form audio, generally 2-5 minutes, in these cases the impact on batter life is de minimis. This is about 75% of our listening.

Our secondary use cases are 30-45 minute listens while people commute, but those listens are in the car where the cell phone is plugged in. In that case the impact on battery is totally moot.

Please feel free to touch base if you actually want facts about how our business works instead of your uninformed opinion.

Thanks,

Erik Schwartz

http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikschwartz

about 7 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Erick,

Thanks for your feedback.  I did sample quite a good cross section of people in addition to my own experiences. 

Your argument for the secondary case is limited to those who drive.  There are a great many people in urban metro areas that do not drive and rely on public transportation.  Their phones are not plugged in.

This matter of demographic usage affects a good many people who build applications or market them, based upon the life they know.  I have lived in South America, South East Asia, Asia, North America, and worked for companies in Europe and the Americas.  I have also lived a good many years in California, so I appreciate your argument on plugged-in mobile phones - mine was always so.   However, I live in New York.  Few drive into Manhattan... and if you do, listening to any programming on your mobile phone is not going to happen.  There are strict laws and huge fines here that govern mobile phone usage  - even hands-free.  The same goes for Chicago and Boston.

As to your first argument - I have none.  I am glad you share the information.  Short burst usage is terrific.  However, I do see the same challenge... people don't want to expend battery life on a commercial.  If the programming is commerical free for short burst, great.

Cheers,

Tina

about 7 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Apologies for misspelling your name Erik.  Very sorry about that.

about 7 years ago

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Mike Burgmaier

This battery life issue/concern with Foneshow is really crazy (and a really invalid argument). Foneshow ads are a few seconds long -- so tiny fractions of the overall experience.

i've been a foneshow user for around two years now and absolutely love the service -- to say that it "kills batteries" is akin to saying that the 2 secnd delay I have to endure to key in my PIN for voice mail is costing me millions.

Foneshow is a free service. What's the beef?

I don't think that Foneshow was a real part of this overall review, just a "throw in" -- as witnessed by the single sentence. The comment is just wrong, but that hapens. No need for a big row here....

about 7 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Hi Mike,

I'm glad you are a supporter of Foneshow as well as a value customer for their ad client.  It's not a free service... but ok, virtually free and that is cool.  I am pleased the ads do not annoy you, but rather are neutral or helpful to your experience - at least that's what I'm picking up by what you wrote.

Always good to know the other side of view point.  I'm still not sold nor are some... so then the question is not weather is the service fine and dandy as it is, but what can be changed.  Maybe it's the ads that are not connecting with the listener or maybe it is the seconds in this microwave have it now world or maybe it is the fact so many people are used to iTunes they've forgotten radio has commercials.

So, now I've heard positions on both sides. Hopefully, we'll hear some more consumer experiences in support of Foneshow.

Cheers,

about 7 years ago

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Alex

I am pretty sure that GPRS/3G kills battery faster than voice. Just try browsing or using google maps on blackberry vs. calling.

about 7 years ago

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Erik Schwartz

According to the U. S. Census bureau 87.7% of American workers commute to work in a car.

Sadly, only 4.7% of American workers take public transit.

about 7 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Manhattan is unique in the United States for its intense use of public transportation and lack of private car ownership. While 88% of Americans nationwide drive to their jobs and only 5% use public transportation, mass transit is the dominant form of travel for residents of Manhattan, with 72% of borough residents using public transportation and only 18% driving to work. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 75% of Manhattan households do not own a car.
 
About half of the nation’s public transportation commuters can be found in 10 of the nation’s 50 cities with the most workers age 16 or over: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. These cities account for 2.9 million of the nation’s 6.2 million users of public transportation. San Francisco is one of the nation's wealthiest metros, with per-household spending averaging $39,700, or 11th in the country

Overall, the biggest-spending metros are those with healthy incomes in densely populated areas of the country. Seven of the top ten are within transit commuting range of New York City or San Francisco.

Households headed by 35-to-44-year-olds are not necessarily the most affluent, but their predominantly two-income lifestyle may require them to maintain two or more vehicles. They spend a greater share of total expenditures on new and used cars and trucks than any other age group.

about 7 years ago

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drowsy

Tina,

I'm trying to read the article and comments as if I were going to hire you or send an employee to your training.   Your examples are varied and I'm not sure I follow.

It looks like you are only in favor of visual ads that become the product offering itself, like a game that has a main character that is a consumer product, like the turkey game. 

I agree that has appeal, which is why brands have been doing thus forever now.   But as part of this econsultancy, is your message that most advertising that is not packaged as main content is a pig?   Is there any hope for ads that are clearly identified as ads and not content?   

I imagine the cost/benefit was good for that game if

1) brand affinity was the goal

or

2) some direct sales or coupons were redeemed based on the game.

Are these so fundamentally different that they need to be separated?

Cigarette and spirits companies have been doing this for years online, and they are clearly aiming at persons who may not be eligible for the product.  That all seems to be fair play if you are stating that the goal is brand affinity, not direct sales.  

I'd argue that the ads you don't like are better suited to direct sales hit-or-miss and are not even trying for brand affinity, so I'm wondering why you are conflating the two, and furthermore using ad presence as some scorecard for the online product selling ad space.   

And you may have merely tossed off the battery comment but the battery life issue does not seem evenly spread about.   Any use of data service will gobble up your battery, games would too even offline.   So it is OK for a product to gobble a user's battery for brand affinity, but not for an extra connection in a tweeting app somehow?   

As a person who is waiting for the day when twitter will announce some revenue strategy, I'm curious for a followup.

about 7 years ago

Tina Whitfield

Tina Whitfield, CEO at EquisGlobal

Hi, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.  My posting was a look at quality.  I looked at several of the most recent - and diverse - marketing projects that came across my computer - pushed to me or enticed me to engage - it was not an exhaustive review and I was not looking to validate an opinion by selecting certain market projects over others.

Back to the quality review - the usual suspects cover - will the ad generate revenue to cover the cost of the ad, the staff employed, and contribute to the marketing and distribution of the product?; was the effort executed flawlessly or almost so and does it enhance the value of the product and company?; was the company just trying to prove they were cool by playing in new technology arena but the campaign won't really deliver the customer numbers shareholders demand?; did it appear the advertiser or company invested in a long and strategic 'think through' of a campaign (or even one-off) with specific financial and customer acquisition goals?; etc...

I encourage you to investigate all sides of WAP advertising - the pros and cons from handset manufacturers, mobile operators, brands, advertisers, and mostly from the consumer.  Think then empathize with the consumer experience with the WAP ads.  Talk to a lot of consumers and get personal experiences from all ages.

Getting out among the people is the key to understanding this piece.  Interview Jill and Joe on the street and see if they think the NHL mobile site as it was when this was published - is worthy of their time to tune-in?

Cellufun Turkey game was a plus for me because it worked.  That's all.  They have proof in the numbers that the idea engaged people.  When family shoppers walked in to the store to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving, I suspect these 325,000 virtual Butterball Turkey buyers bought the real thing.  Especially, since women influence what brands are bought at Thanksgiving and casual mobile games are mostly played by women with an average age of 35 yrs old.  The numbers turn into revenue.  Revenue is the point of a profitable business.

As for the battery issue, check out the recent editorials on the iPhone casing turning brown from overheating.  Not all mobile handsets have battery issues.  The mobile handset is a machine, some have great power consumption architecture, RISC, multi processor cores, etc... that can handle an application like Foneshow or complex games, but these handsets are not prolific... yet.  Just because a company has an amazing idea that can truly be useful, does not mean the industry is ready for it or the idea is ready for mass distribution.  Perhaps, selective distribution is better or a better built product that is not a power hog.  Here is where doing research on radios, transmittors, AM radio, FM radio, HAM radio, HD Radio, batteries, conductors, and other modulation technology will be helpful.

Bottomline is that I knew this piece would get whacked about - more importantly - I want marketers to think and do research, much more than I am seeing being done.

about 7 years ago

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